On February 17, 2016 the Deaf special envoy of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), Mr. Robert Grund, met three deaf North Koreans for the first time. Until then the topic of being deaf was hardly known in North Korea. Mr. Grund picked up the work and started to permanently represent the WFD to Pyongyang for four years (until October 2016). Because of this, many deaf South Korean finally discovered deaf activities taking place in North Korea.
Thanks to the support of TOGETHER-Hamhung and the World Federation of the Deaf, deaf North Korean people were able to travel abroad and participate in international events of the deaf community. Deaf delegates from both Korean countries of the Korean peninsula had the opportunity to exchange experiences there. Unfortunately, it was only then noticed that the sign languages in North and South Korea – in contrast to the Korean spoken language – are very different, which caused many communication problems.
Ms. Hyemi Cho became aware of the topic and contacted our association. She would like to play a supporting role in breaking down these barriers to communicate as part of a project. Our association “TOGETHER-Hamhung” welcomes her initiative but needs financial support in order to work out the differences in the Korean sign language of both countries.
In order to facilitate inter-Korean dialogue, barrier-free communication must be guaranteed. At the encounter of the North and South Korean leaders (2018), we noticed that they did not require interpreters for an effortless communication. At an international meeting between deaf people of both Korean countries, however, two sing language interpreters are needed, one for South Korea and another one for North Korea.
This shall be a long-term project that aims to enable direct communication between deaf people in both countries. Ms. Hyemi Cho is ready to devote herself sincerely and to move to Berlin to help realizing it. So far, five films have been edited on the differences between North and South Korean sign language for our Facebook page. For other films, however, we are still needing financial support.
More about deaf work in North Korea: